How did the other half live – the half whose summer mansions were opened for precious months, maybe just weeks out of the year? I’ve just returned from a whirlwind Newport, Rhode Island mansion tour. I would answer the question this way – they LIVED. Gilded walls, marble staircases, tapestry-covered walls – they LIVED. Did endless wealth showcased in opulent behemoth vacation homes make these folks smile every morning? I couldn’t say. Only ‘they’ could have answered this query honestly.
Many of their family tree roots have since grown deep, watered with wealth. Some have donated much. Others have sold plenty. A wonderful, silver-haired tour guide, whose face was deeply etched with lines of history jokingly remarked, “A fourteen-year-old Anderson Cooper was left a large Newport home and seventy-one million dollars by an Aunt. What fourteen-year-old can live on seventy-one million?”
My favorite mansion was not actually a mansion, but a replica of a twelfth-century Song Dynasty temple in the backyard of Marble House – called the Chinese Tea House. In the late 1800’s, Alva Vanderbilt hosted rallies for women’s suffrage in this lovely structure by the sea.
Thank you and goodnight. May you dream of sipping delicious tea by the glorious ocean at sunset.